Commentary Magazine


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Blah Blah Blah with Bush

I would like readers to know that my skepticism about Bush’s present visit to Jerusalem does not stem from resentment for the traffic snarls that threaten my peace-seeking efforts to drive my kids to school on time. Nor does it come from the kitsch that flowed from the Israel Convention Center last night, as two childrens’ choirs, one on site and the other in Maryland, celebrated the Israel-U.S. alliance in the presence of world leaders by unfathomably and simultaneously singing the Beatles’ Let it Be and Naomi Shemer’s Lu Yehi, which was written after the 1973 war in conscious echoing of the Liverpudlians’ swan song.

I sometimes wish that international politics were less, er, full of it. When you hear Olmert declaring significant progress being made in talks with Palestinians and a bewildered Saeb Erekat responding that he has no idea what Olmert’s talking about, and you find yourself believing the Palestinians, then you know what I mean. Or when Bush describes Olmert as “an honest man,” something that virtually no Israeli believes any more. Or when Israeli leaders respond to yesterday’s rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping mall (it was an Iranian-made rocket, for those of you keeping score), which injured dozens, by declaring yet again that Israel will not stand idly by while blah blah blah . . . Perhaps I should just stop reading the stuff and go back to comics.

There is, of course, a good reason why international politics is so often a swamp of dissimulation. (It’s not diplomatic to use the word “lies.”) It is because politicians are accountable to people back home, and the farther away something is, the harder it is for the real bosses — the voters — to tell truth from fiction. Who among Bush’s voters really cares, or really knows, whether Olmert is an honest guy? Back home, it makes Bush look like a generous spirit; over here, it makes him look complicit in the deterioration of politics and the loss of values in the Jewish state.

Oh, well. Israelis, for their part, have grown numb to the whole thing. They’re busy as usual, dealing with casualties and trying to put their elected officials behind bars.